My dad called. After 14 months without contact.
Not that I wasn’t expecting it. He e‑mailed me two weeks ago (flagged with the little red exclamation point to note that it was important), telling me that he was having a party on New Years. “Can you come and join us?”, it said.
Is he dating now, I wondered. Married?
I sat on this e‑mail, unsure of what to say. A little while before this, Merv struck up a conversation with me about fishing. I told him I used to go to this one fishing spot at a lift-lock in Peterborough with my dad, and it made me wonder what I would say if I ever talked to him again. He didn’t even know me when we were on speaking terms, how would he know me now? I’ve changed so drastically in the last year.
We never left things off on bad terms. We just stopped talking to each other, so there wasn’t any animosity, on my part, at least. I never contacted him because I never felt like it, and I was expecting years to go by before he contacted me.
Then he called on the weekend. It took me by surprise. I thought e‑mail was a way for him to stay distant, while fulfilling the minimum parental responsibility. I had guests over and was entertaining and somewhat charged up. He started talking to me in Chinese, and I could only reply in English. It was too much for my mind, and I was too much on my guard. So I told him to call me next week.
And he did.
He starting asking me questions, as if he was reading them off a list:
- Is your life busy?
- Are you busy at work?
- Are you dating anyone?
- Have you been home (i.e. where I grew up, and where he lives now) lately?
- Have you dated anyone since your last girlfriend?1
I always keep my distance, because my dad has always killed me with indifference. I tell him things that are important to me, but he never cares, and that’s what hurt me the most. I ask him how to say certain phrases in Chinese, to make him know that I’m interested in the culture. I tell him I’m going to Hong Kong next year with my friends, and I’ll be visiting grandma. No reaction.
He tells me he has Osteoporosis, that his brother has it too, so I should keep an eye out because they’re only now discovering that it runs in the family. Calcium pills with vitamin B to help absorb it. He got a hair transplant that took five doctors and nine hours2.
It’s all a formality to him. No asking if there’s any news, no asking if I’m happy. He poses the generic questions, I give him the generic answers.
And of course, “Are you coming home?”.
I confessed this to Julie, and she was surprised at his audacity in asking me after such a long time without contact. The strange thing is that I never even thought about it like that.
Because I’ve never expected anything more from him.
- He reacted with a bit of surprise to my answer. I wasn’t sure if it was because he expected me to have dated someone, or whether he’s beginning to realize I may not carry on the family name. [↩]
- My dad has always joked about transplanting my hair to his head, because mine grows so fast and thick, whereas his is thin and grey. He’s always dyed his hair black to cling to his youth. [↩]